ASHGABAT-- Turkmenistan has opened a major new gasoline refinery as the natural-gas-rich country struggles with major deficits of gasoline that have angered drivers for months.
Turkmen officials hope the $1.7 billion project, whose opening was formally marked on June 28, will ease the country's fuel shortages.
Built by a Japanese-Turkish consortium and reportedly the largest in Central Asia, the plant utilizes new technologies that transform natural gas into gasoline, diesel fuel, and liquefied natural gas.
Built in a town on the outskirts of the capital Ashgabat, the new facility should be able to produce up to 600,000 tons of gasoline annually, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said at ceremonies celebrating the plant’s opening.
Despite having some of the world's largest natural gas reserves, the country has long suffered from widespread unemployment and economic stagnation.
The government has made small steps to fix municipal problems by hiking fees for utilities, including water, gas and electricity which were once free. Government officials have also tried to minimize public unrest or discussion about the shortages of fuel or other commodities.
Turkmen car drivers, meanwhile, have reported fuel shortages in parts of Ashgabat and in regions outside the capital, and drivers have been forced to use lower-quality gasoline, causing engine problems.
In the city of Mary, about 370 kilometers east of Ashgabat, fueling stations were telling drivers that gasoline was being distributed only for state vehicles.
Some drivers have also reported being ticketed or fined by road police for using low-quality gasoline, whose exhaust contains more pollutants.